Birmingham, UK


*Trigger warning*

Ever since I can remember, prepping for a holiday has been one of my favourite things to do. Rushing around the shops grabbing some last minute toiletries and adding a few too many new outfits to the trolly has always been a fond past time for me. And so when I arrived at Merry Hill shopping centre in March 2008 to do just that I was excited, little did I know what I would actually be taking home with me. 

Grace sits in front of a mural. she is looking off to the side.

Myself and my family spent the day in and out of shops picking out new clothes for our trip to Dorset the following week, and while the shopping spree was hell on earth for my Dad, I was having the time of my life trying on all my new outfits. After what would have been hours of browsing, were came across a fashion show on the bottom floor of the shopping center, and me being me I had to watch it. Luckily we were on a higher floor and so our view of the catwalk beneath us was perfect. I could see every beautiful model, every pretty little dress, and better yet my parents weren't finished shopping yet so I could enjoy the whole thing in peace. 

With my little sister sat happily on a bench a few feet away I leaned over the glass barrier to watch the show below. Within minutes I was consumed by the catwalk and completely oblivious to the world around me, that was until I heard a group of boys walk up behind. 

I could hear them talking but as the show still had my attention I paid it no mind and continued enjoying the presentation. Then I realised how close they had gotten to me. As a shy teenager I would avoid confrontation like the plague but these boys were getting a little too close for comfort, and just as I was about to turn around I felt it. Like an electric shock hitting my spine I felt a hand touch my back and slowly move downwards. I could hear them giggling as their friend touched me, gradually moving down further and further. "You're going all the way down her back!" one of the bunch exclaimed, but it wouldn't be long before his hand had reached the top of my bum. 

They say when faced with danger your fight or flight reaction kicks in, but they rarely mention that actually sometimes you freeze. Sometimes you are so overwhelmed by the situation that your body tenses, you can't escape, and so you just stay, frozen by fear but unable to even scream. That's exactly what I did. 

The lads, who seemed maybe a few years older than myself, soon left but I didn't dare turn around. Why on earth didn't I turn around? Why didn't I stop them, or at the very least push them away? I'm not sure I'll ever truly know why I didn't fight back in that moment. 

And so I watched the show until the end, unsure if I'd imagined everything that had just happened. I couldn't bare to ask my sister if she had witnessed anything because what even was there to see? A couple of boys touched my lower back and bum for a few seconds? And I never spoke about the ordeal with anyone because it just seemed so trivial when I compared it to what others had been through. I never spoke about it until now that is because actually, I've come to realise it was assault. I was sexually assaulted at 13 and even if I can sometimes brush it off as 'boys being boys' it's stayed with me, always.

I've replayed the situation in my head a thousand times and to this day I can't make sense of it, but I guess that's the thing with situations like that, they don't need to make sense. I was a child, I didn't do anything wrong, I didn't encourage attention, it was just something that happened to me.

There have been other instances since then of course, unwanted touching by male acquaintances, inappropriate kissing by much older family members and friends, or just straight up grabbing by strangers in bars, but thankfully all have been quite mild compared to other's experiences. Growing up these things were just a fact of life for a girl but no more. 

I am done with listening to horrible statistics of women being assaulted and raped and murdered by men. This shouldn't be the way things are. And so I'll add my story to the mix, as minor as it may be, and I'll stand up whenever I see injustice against women because I cannot take history repeating itself with girl after girl after girl.

Every woman has a story like mine or worse, and that's not okay.


What can we do to change this for future generations of women?

While I agree not all men are like this, it's a fact that almost all women have been inappropriately touched by men, or catcalled as they walk the streets. So while women can (and always have) done things to try keep themselves safe this is a male issue.

Men, we are going to need you to take a good look at yourselves and the way you have been brought up to treat girls and women. We need you to call out your friends when they make unwanted comments or advances. You are going to have to stop honking your horns at children as they walk home from school. The list could go on, there is a lot of work to do.

We need to end this violence against women.


There is currently a petition to make street harassment a crime in the UK. If you feel strongly about protecting women, please click the link below to sign it.

Thank you for reading!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! I very fortunately have had a very mild experience of sexual assault - I only remember one time and it happened in my favourite place as well which sucked! But I think it's so important to speak out about these issues because they happen to way too many people way too often!

    1. Isn't mad that we're grateful to have only experienced mild sexuals assaults. I'm really sorry that you had to experience that lovely x

  2. It definitely wasn't trivial. I wish society stop thinking that this sort of thing is normal.

    1. Looking back I can see it for what it was, but as a teenager I didn't eally know what to think of it.


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